Today, September 18, is ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day
‘ so when better to learn about the real pirates of the Virgin Islands than today!
|Famed Pirate Blackbeard
According to Wikipedia
, along with the facts we find a certain amount of legend, the most famous of which is probably the Territory’s association with the famous pirate Blackbeard
. Blackbeard was known by a number of names including Edward Teach, Tatch, and Thatch. There are two “Thatch” islands in the BVI and almost directly opposite Road Harbour is the island known as ‘Deadchest,’ where Blackbeard allegedly marooned a number of his men
giving the island its name. These men were supposed to have tried to swim to the adjacent Peter Island but drowned, hence the name ‘Dead Man’s Bay’ on Peter Island.
The reality is that there is no documentary evidence to support any of this and academically speaking, there is no proof to show that Blackbeard ever sailed through the Virgin Islands. It is known that Blackbeard did maroon some of his pirates but this happened in the Bahamas and not the Virgin Islands. More conclusive is the fact that a map from the early 18th century shows that Deadchest Island was known by this name far earlier than when Blackbeard was operating, which was only between the years 1716-18.
The Blackbeard myth was perpetuated in the BVI when Robert Louis Stevenson
wrote his now famous book “Treasure Island
“. In the book is the famous song mentioning ‘Deadchest’ and some suggest that Stevenson based his Treasure Island on Norman Island. Included on his Treasure Island is a hill known as ‘Spyglass Hill’ which is actually the highest peak on Norman Island. The reality is though that whilst researching his book, Stevenson probably chose a group of islands that suited his story from a sea chart. He would have taken their names and adapted them for this own purpose but in fact, his diaries show that he never visited the BVI.
Acts of piracy were committed in the BVI and the documentary resource proves this. In 1685, a Spanish pirate vessel called the Longue attacked Tortola and captured an English sloop and its crew of eight, one of whom was killed. In the following year, another Spanish pirate expedition which was in fact led by an English Doctor, attacked, invaded, and held Tortola for a number of days. Plantations were pillaged and the Deputy Governor’s son, Thomas Bisse, was held captive and physically abused. Damage estimated at £3,977.00 was committed which was enough for the juvenile colony to collapse.
Whether or where pirates really existed in the Virgin Islands (US or British) really is secondary to some of the wonderful tales that are told by many a sea captain as they navigate the waters of St John today! Makes for a fun story and great reason to consume the pirate’s favorite beverage – da rum!